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Poland intends to accept Ukraine’s request for combat aircraft

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Two MiG-29 fighter jets take part in a NATO air defense exercise near Lask air base in central Poland on October 12, 2022.RADOSLAW JOZWIAK / AFP / Getty Images

Poland’s president said on Thursday that his country plans to donate dozens of MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, making it the first NATO member to respond to the Ukrainian government’s growing demands for combat aircraft.

President Andrzej Duda said that Poland would deliver four Soviet-made warplanes “in the next few days” and that the rest needed service and would be delivered at a later date. The Polish word he used to describe their number could mean between 11 and 19.

“They are in their final years of operation, but they are in good working order,” Duda said of the plane.

Duda did not say whether other countries would do the same, although Slovakia said it would send the abandoned MiGs to Ukraine.

Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller said on Wednesday that some other countries with MiGs had pledged to supply them to Kiev, but he did not name them.

While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Western supporters to share fighter jets, NATO allies expressed reluctance.

Prior to the full-scale Russian invasion, Ukraine had dozens of MiG-29s it inherited during the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it is unclear how many are still in service after more than a year of fighting.

The debate over whether to supply the fighter jets to Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, began more than a year ago, but NATO was wary of escalating the war.

Duda’s announcement came during a joint press conference in Warsaw with visiting Czech President Petr Pavel.

Duda said the Polish Air Force will replace the planes it donated to Ukraine with South Korean FA-50 fighters and US-made F-35s.

Poland was also the first NATO country to deliver German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine last month.

Poland is an important ally in the Ukrainian crisis. It is home to thousands of American troops and hosts more people fleeing the war in Ukraine than any other country, amid Europe’s biggest refugee crisis in decades.

It has suffered invasions and occupations by Russia for centuries and still fears Russia despite being a NATO member.

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